5 things to do in the morning to deal with nerves if your family is in the midst of exam season

Students across the country are waking up each morning filled with nerves as they prepare to take on their exams.

A little bit of nervousness before a big test can be a good thing – it gives you the adrenaline to stay focused and knuckle down when that paper hits your desk.

But anxiety can easily spiral out of control, making it difficult to concentrate on doing your best. Here, we’ve found some top tips for both parents and children to stay calm and collected on the morning of an exam, so you can keep your cool…

1. Eat breakfast together

A good, brain-boosting breakfast is vital on the morning of an exam for energy and focus. Healthy choices include slow-release carbohydrates like porridge and muesli, and protein like eggs, nuts, yogurt, and cottage cheese.

Make sure to allow plenty of time in the morning so you can all sit together around the table and eat as a family, since scoffing down a slice of toast as you run out the door will only add to the stress of the day.

Use this time to allow your child to discuss any worries, fears or apprehensions they might have – high expectations can often put a lot of pressure on students, so be reassuring and positive. Let them know that failing isn’t the end of the world and that they can only do their best.

2. Practise some breathing exercises

Breathing techniques can help your child to enter a state of calm, helping them to release the physical symptoms of stress such as a pounding heart or breathlessness.

It can also help with any nerves you’re feeling as a parent.

With your child, breathe deeply through the diaphragm (the bit below your chest at the top of your abdomen), rather than the chest, to trigger the  parasympathetic nervous system.

Hold each breath for four counts and then release together.

By simply focusing on just breathing in and out before an exam, you can help your child to slow down their heart rate and clear their mind.

3. Leave with plenty of time

There’s nothing more stressful than rushing to get somewhere and worrying you might be late.

Leave the house with enough time to allow for traffic or road disruptions, so you can arrive well ahead of the exam.

This will give your child time to collect their thoughts and practise some calming breaths before they enter the testing hall.

4. Play some relaxing music in the car

It’s tempting to strike up a mock test situation and start firing questions at your child on the way to an exam, to check how well prepared they are.

As good as your intentions might be, this can add to the pressure of the day and draw attention to subjects they might be having difficulties with – encouraging the cycle of panic.

Rather, play some relaxing music in the car and create a calming pre-test environment.

5. Try a herbal remedy

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Studies have found that the smell of lavender can soothe and relax us. It’s thought to modulate the brain’s neurotransmitter GABAA, helping to control nervous system activity.

Try adding a few drops of lavender oil to you child’s bath or shower on the morning of an exam, or place a few drops on a tissue that they can keep in their pocket.

That way, they can pull it out in the moments before an exam, take a few deep calming breaths and get themselves into the zone.

- Press Association

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